Tragedy and adversity are sadly a part of everybody’s life in some measure. They are inescapable characteristics of humanity that will find every one of us, but how we respond to these dark periods is what shows our true spirit. We can let the darkness swallow us and let it become part of our being, or we can stand up to the void and scream it into submission. And the latter is exactly the approach that TUSKAR have opted for on their debut full-length Matriarch.
The album chronicles the life of the matriarch figure from birth to death. Refusing to shy away from life’s toughest obstacles and humanity’s darker side, vocalist/drummer Tyler Hodges has unleashed his fury and sadness about situations suffered by those closest to him, including his mum, who the album is dedicated to wholeheartedly, in name and content.
It’s this outpouring of sheer anger and grief that shines brightest throughout Matriarch. There is a moment toward the end of Shame in which Hodges sounds like a raw nerve. His acerbic, crackling screams are a vicious gut punch that get no easier to listen to on your second, fifth, tenth playthrough. “The first time I played that song, I genuinely cried” Hodges recently told Distorted Sound, and it’s absolutely no surprise. It is such an affecting, brutal, deeply personal performance that you almost question if this is something we should be an audience to. As a result, Shame feels far longer than its listed seven minute 29 second runtime. It becomes something of an emotional endurance, but one that you will find remarkably rewarding because this is unquestionably one of the best songs you will hear all year.
On a whole album of highlights, another notable standout comes in the shape of Halcyon Gilt, on which TUSKAR showcases their myriad influences. From the tech-tinged opening riff a la MESHUGGAH, through the misery-drenched choruses shaped by YOB and via the hardcore-style vocal delivery (“Father forgive me for what I have done” is peak HATEBREED), TUSKAR embodies everything that makes modern metal so exciting.
Depending on what mood this album catches you in, it will leave you feeling one of several ways. Sometimes, the vitriol will take a hold, and tracks like Into The Sea will leave you feeling like you can punch a hole in the earth; other times, it’s the sadness and desperation of Shame that will envelop you in darkness and make you feel as if you’ll never be happy again. On another day, you may find that the contemplative undertones of The Trees, The Trees, The Trees that swell and bloom into a cascade of raw emotion will make you see the things around you in a totally different light. Matriarch is an album that transcends simply being cathartic, or therapeutic, or spectacular – it’s an album that can live in you from this day forth and genuinely cling on to your soul for the years to come.
Most impressively of all though, it’s the weight of the space given to the instrumentation. When solitary cymbal crashes or extended chords are allowed to breathe, particularly toward the end of the title track Matriarch, there is a phenomenal heaviness that is simply irresistible. For an album process that put so much focus on the vocal delivery, TUSKAR and producer Joe Clayton have done a remarkable job of making sure the grief and ferocity rings out across every sonic inch of this record.
In a year that is already peppered with career defining highlights and nailed-on album of the year contenders, Matriarch may well be the dark horse that you come back to more than any other.
Matriarch is out now via Church Road Records.
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